Early Literacy. Happy Family.

It’s Ohio Library Week with the Ohio Library Council. This year, one of their themes is Early Literacy. So, I spoke this week with Youth Services Coordinator, Kim Bautz, about it.

Love What You Do

Kim coordinates a lot, such as managing the Library’s collection of youth materials. She also organizes several systemwide initiatives that, as it turns out, focus almost exclusively on Early Literacy. I was curious about why that is and happy that Kim agreed to talk with me.

There are a lot of people who do great work and then there are some you come across in life who not only do great work but also, when you meet them, you think, “Well, of course, she does this work,” because they seem like a perfect fit. This has been my impression of Kim since I met her last June. However, since many of you may not know who she is, I’d like to make a quick introduction. She graduated from Kent State University with a master’s degree in Library Science. She’s been in Library World since that time – all told for 23 years.

One of the reasons I think she’s so good is the range of jobs she’s held and the communities she’s served in that time. From Tennessee to Northern Ohio to Dayton Metro Library, she accepted her current position here in March 2019.

You Can Tell Right Away When Something’s Right

Evan Scott: Kim, you’ve experienced different communities and positions in the past 20 years. What stands out to you about GCPL’s focus on Early Literacy?

Kim Bautz: A lot of our success in early literacy can be attributed to my predecessor, Kay Webster. She was known throughout the region. Here in Greene County, she inspired the library to launch Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library in 2013. She was dedicated to early literacy and imparted her passion to the way we serve Greene County.

ES: Do you have a sense of the impact the Imagination Library and other Early Literacy programs have on our communities?

KB: The impact has been tremendous – from the sheer number of children we serve every year to the ongoing stories we hear from parents. They tell us how much their children love their librarian (…not the library…their librarian!). Parents love reading with their children and the impact it has on their first years going to school. It really inspires us.

So Much Fun.

ES: You mentioned Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library – can you tell us a little more about that and some of the other initiatives that make up GCPL’s early literacy focus?

KB: There are so many fun stories about the Imagination Library. One story that stands out is more recent but has had a huge impact on Greene County children and Ohio. Before Governor DeWine was elected, he and First Lady DeWine’s daughter and family were living with them while they were waiting to move into a new house. The daughter’s forwarded mail included their granddaughter’s monthly Dolly book and Mrs. DeWine was so taken by the experience that, as soon as he was elected, she and the Governor launched a statewide effort to stand up Imagination Libraries across all 88 counties in Ohio.

In Greene County, the program has mailed more than 300,000 books to over 12,000 children. Statewide, there were more than 100,000 children enrolled in 2020 alone.

ES: 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten is a fairly new initiative in Greene County?

KB: We started the program shortly before I arrived, in January 2019. Children and parents log the number of books they read and receive prizes for every 100 books. Of course, the best prize is a fox backpack when a child reaches 1,000 books. We have close to 800 registered families with more than 102,000 books already logged. It’s exciting to see – and we can’t wait to see how many more get involved in the coming year.

ES: One of my early memories growing up in Yellow Springs was my librarian, Ms. Jackie. She’d pick us up from the Community Center and take us to Glen Helen for story time. It was a highlight for most of us and there were few people I loved more than Ms. Jackie. Our librarians have that same glow about them. Why do you think kids connect so well with their librarians?

KB: It seems to be almost a universal truth, doesn’t it? Of course, it starts with the quality and character of the people and I’ve not worked with a finer group of inspired librarians. They’re the best. What a lot of people may not know is that we don’t just pick a random book, sit down, and read it to kids.

There’s a lot of professional development that goes into it – and I think it really shows up in how well kids and parents connect with their librarians. It’s about engagement – parents and kids. Our staff model best practices for parents to help them participate in developing their children’s early literacy skills. From showing them how to hold a book to offering real-world ideas to have fun with your child while running errands. The book is the obvious focus but there is much more to early literacy than reading the words.

Ohio Library Council – Helping to Create Young Readers

ES: OLC hosts Library Week every year and it’s what prompted me to talk with you. Sometimes professional associations don’t seem to benefit people outside the profession but that’s not the case here, is it?

KB: OLC is one of the premier statewide organizations in the country. I’ve been involved with OLC since 2001 and their advocacy work has a direct impact on patrons – here in Greene County and throughout the state – by working to secure funds from legislators. Beyond this aspect of their work, for instance, we’re participating in an OLC conference for Youth Services later this year. It’s an integral part of how we continue to impact Greene County children and their families.